Globally 12 million girls under 18 years of age enter formal or informal marriages every year. Child marriage increases girls’ risk of early and dangerous pregnancies, limits their formal and informal educational opportunities and increases their risk of poverty.
Gendered social norms interact both with other norms and with underlying factors such as poverty and limited education and economic opportunities in different contexts to increase the likelihood of child marriage.
ALIGN’s infographic shows the ways that these factors, and child marriage laws are influenced by and influence a variety of beliefs, which in turn influence the norms that underpin child marriage. These norms prescribe ideal roles for women, the contexts in which sexuality can be expressed, and parents’ responsibilities for their daughters’ futures. Together they contribute to both norms that view child marriage as positive, a way of securing girls’ futures, or of gaining social respect as married women, and to a sense that marriage in adolescence is normal and that not marrying risks social stigma. In any given context, different norms and other factors will be of particular significance.
Tools for researching child marriage
Effective action on child marriage relies on understanding the role and nature of the norms that contribute to it. This set of tools, curated by Margaret Greene and Ellen Stiefvater of Greeneworks, and the ALIGN team, outlines some of the resources that are available for researching and monitoring change in norms related to child marriage. Some have been created specifically for understanding child marriage and others can be adapted for this purpose.
Case study: Changing norms to tackle child marriage and promote sexual and reproductive health rights in India
The law as a tool for changing gender norms affecting adolescent girls: The case of child marriage laws
This report explores the role of law reform as a tool for changing gender norms that affect adolescent girls, with a focus on child marriage laws. It finds that law reform is most effective in changing gender norms when it is building on changes in behaviour or attitudes that are already starting to occur.
This report reviews the landscape around social norms theory and investigates two projects that have facilitated change around norms and practices of female genital cutting (FGC) and child marriage. Improving girls’ well-being requires not only working with girls, but also with boys, women, and men, by creating safe spaces where communities can question existing norms.
This three-part ODI podcast series explores how harmful gendered norms effect the lives of girls in developing countries. Through interviews with girls, their families and communities, and gender and development researchers, the episodes discuss topics around gender norms theory and history, the complexities of changing norms, and positive interventions to empower girls' and transform their fut